College enrollments continue to drop

Colleges are enrolling fewer students, at a time when costs are increasing and student loan debt continues to weigh on Americans.

Postsecondary school enrollment in spring 2019 declined 1.7 percent year over year – or by 300,000 students – according to new data from research group the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Declines were even steeper at some specific types of institutions:  down 19.7 percent at four-year, for-profit institutions;  down 3.4 percent at two-year public institutions and down nearly 1 percent at four-year public institutions. Enrollments increased at four-year, private nonprofit institutions, but researchers attributed that to the fact that a large for-profit institution converted to nonprofit status.

Large enrollment drops were seen in Alaska and Florida (-5.2 percent each), Hawaii and Kansas (-4.2 percent) and Illinois (-5 percent). On the flip side, enrollments increased by nearly 10 percent in New Hampshire and by 7.2 percent in Utah.

This comes as the cost of college is rising and student loan debts are mounting. The cost of a public four-year institution in the 2018-2019 school year was about $10,339, while a private four-year institution cost $36,386.


Overall, costs – adjusted for inflation – increased more than 386 percent for public four-year institutions, and 285 percent for private four-year institutions between 1964 and 2019, according to data from GOBankingRates. When inflation is not accounted for, those percentages rise to 3,819 percent and 2,988 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, outstanding student loan debt surpassed $1.5 trillion in 2018 – second only to mortgage debt – doubling over the past decade.